Monday, August 31, 2015

Give me just a little more time!

Just a quick note to say that I haven't forgotten about the podcast.

In fact,it's the opposite-I've been planning big things for the show.
I've been lining up future guests,planning our next show which is going to be a big one-our college football previews in which I will cover the five major conferences plus a little MAC and Mountain West chat as well and setting up topics for future episodes as well.

In other words,I've been doing everything for the show,but the show!
Rest assured that it hasn't gone by the wayside and get me past Labor Day and I think you are going to really enjoy what I have planned for the fall and winter..

Just give me just a little more time!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Santa Cruz decisions Mares-Boxing Challenge

The Boxing Challenge continued with two different sites in Los Angeles contributing bouts.

The top one was the featherweight bout on ESPN with WBC Jr.Featherweight champ Leo Santa Cruz moving to 126 for a bout against three division champion Abner Mares.

For six rounds,this looked like a possible fight of the year candidate as Mares attacked Santa Cruz and attempted to fight Santa Cruz at his preferred game-aggressive assault.
However,the corner of Mares suggested he box more and when he listened,Santa Cruz took full advantage and took control of the second half of the fight,which lacked the action of its predecessor.
Santa Cruz took a majority decision as somehow someone saw the fight a draw.
I had Santa Cruz a 116-112 winner on my card.
An excellent and well-matched bout and exactly the type of fight that the PBC needs to make more of and have more often.
After the bout,there were calls for a rematch,but I'm not sure that I need to see this again.
Something tells me that we've seen what Mares has to offer and a second bout might be far more one-sided.
R.L.Malpica each added one point to our boxing challenge tally with the Santa Cruz win...

In the old-timers division,Shane Mosley stopped Ricardo Mayorga in round six of a middleweight bout.
I didn't see this,since this was inexplicably a pay per view event,but I picked up three points to R.L.Malpica's two as both of us saw Mosley winning via the knockout route,but added a bonus point for picking round six as the finishing point.

The boxing challenge currently stands at 100-97 in my favor....

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Boxing Challenge!

It's been a slow month in boxing before what looks to be a fun fall,so the boxing challenge has been on hiatus,but we have two fights for Saturday and the challenge.
I lead the challenge over R.L.Malpica 96-94 entering this weekend.

PBC features a long asked for featherweight bout that could be fun to watch,but could also be a bout made too late.
Former Bantam,Jr.Feather and Featherweight champ Abner Mares was on a roll and did it against top notch opponents before losing his WBC Featherweight belt in a stunning one round blitz at the hands of Jhonny Gonzalez.
Mares has looked like a different and shop-worn fighter since the loss in winning three bouts against lower opposition and might be one of those fighters that watched a career dissolve after one loss.

Leo Santa Cruz won the IBF Bantamweight title,moved up to 122 pounds and added the WBC title there and looked to have several exciting fights in a lower division.
Santa Cruz then became the PBC poster boy all that is wrong with PBC with high profile fights against lousy opponents.
Mares is the better boxer,Santa Cruz is the more aggressive fighter that throws more punches,so this is a pretty even bout...
Finally,no matter the reason,a fight between these is here and even if it would have been bigger before,there is still plenty on the line.
The winner establishes themselves again as a legitimate top notch boxer and the loser takes a huge step back,especially if Mares loses.
If Santa Cruz loses,he still has his title at 122 to defend,so he has more options with a defeat.
It looks to have excellent potential for an entertaining fight and can be seen on ESPN at 10 PM.

Our other bout is a rematch from years ago as two former champions in 123 yr old Shane Mosley battles 126 year old Ricardo Mayorga at middleweight.
I don't have a problem with these old nostalgia fights and occasionally they can be entertaining when matched against other older fighters.
Just don't put them in against prime fighters and I'm fine with it.

Featherweights 12 rds
Abner Mares vs Leo Santa Cruz
Both:Santa Cruz Unanimous Decision

Middleweights 12 rds
Shane Mosley vs Ricardo Mayorga
R.L:Mosley KO 4
TRS:Mosley KO 6

Friday, August 28, 2015

Darryl Dawkins

My buddy Lefty sent me a note about the passing of Darryl Dawkins at the age of 58.
Usually,this would be held for a cleaning of the inbox with a few different passings,but something struck me about Dawkins and I wanted to do a post on Dawkins and maybe more importantly,how influential he was in the sports world in his time,just as the sports media world was changing.

In many ways,Darryl Dawkins was the Forrest Gump of 70's and 80's pro basketball and he understood the importance of being media friendly as well.
Dawkins was the first player to come straight from high school to the NBA (Moses Malone came from the high school ranks a year before with his signing with the ABA Utah Stars) and it affected his game.
Dawkins had some productive seasons with the 76ers and Nets,but he never developed a game with anything resembling a shot as he depended on a few postup moves and of course-the array of power dunks.

Dawkins was so known for his dunks that you rarely saw Dawkins doing anything on his various basketball cards or posters of the day (Check EBAY,you'll see).
Dawkins also named his dunks which brought him even more attention.
That made Dawkins a popular player,but not one that lived up to what his potential could have been,
Dawkins and his slams broke two backboards,which led to the NBA rule against that and his resulting raps about the destruction were far ahead of his time.
Those descriptions made good copy for the writers and great stuff for the fans of a league that often was struggling for print lines and broadcast attention in the pre-cable days.
Dawkins made a lot of fans and sold a lot of posters in the days when endorsement opportunities were limited in the league for all but an elite few.

It wouldn't be a Dawkins story without talking about his "Home Planet" Lovetron (and surrounding suburb Chocolate Paradise) and his self-assigned nickname Chocolate Thunder.
It was one of the better nicknames and the Lovetron stuff was admittedly weird,but at least it was entertainingly so.
For the 1970' kinda fit in and Dawkins was one of the more remembered players of the day without being one of the better players.

Dawkins was there for the Sixers developing into the league's big three and was there as two of the biggest stars of ABA in George McGinnis and Julius Erving began their transition into the NBA with the Sixers making the NBA Finals in 1977.
Philadelphia won the first two games of that series before being brushed aside by Bill Walton and Portland in the next four games as Portland won their only title with peak Walton before the foot injuries robbed him of his prime.
Dawkins set more precedent in that series for his fight with powerhouse Maurice Lucas (ironically shown above being dunked on Dawkins) of the Blazers.
It was that fight (on national television no less) that began the NBA thinking about tightening rules that saw basketball almost to the level of hockey (small fines,sometimes no ejections) as far as fights go.
The league finally began to realize that men of that size throwing bad intentions punches with their bare fists could cause devastating results-a foreshadowing of just a few months later with the Kermit Washington punch onto Rudy Tomjanovich.

Darryl Dawkins might not have lived up to his potential,but he was still a pretty solid NBA player and was far from a bust.
Nine straight years in double digit scoring doesn't come from a bust,but one also couldn't say that he was a star with those numbers either,especially considering the attention that he received for those stats.
In the end,in so many ways,Darryl Dawkins was truly ahead of his time.....

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five players to avoid in Fantasy Football

Here are five players that I would avoid in your fantasy draft.
Some of these come with big upside and could have good seasons,but I bet they are overdrafted and go way before their eventual numbers indicate that they should...

1) Colin Kaepernick QB San Francisco 49ers

Kaepernick seems to have it all for fantasy success-big name,running ability and a wide open offensive system.
The problem is much of that is either gone or off an reputation that was better than he is.
The 49ers lost Jim Harbaugh as coach,Frank Gore in the backfield and Michael Crabtree at receiver.
Torrey Smith replaces Crabtree,but what Smith does best (run deep) is what Kaepernick does worst (throw deep).
Add in streaks of inaccurate passing and you have good reason to avoid Kaepernick.
Look elsewhere for your every week QB.

2) C.J. Anderson RB Denver Broncos

Anderson went in our first round and could put up good numbers after a breakout year in 2014.
The issue with Anderson is that he plays for the Broncos and a new coach in Gary Kubiak that use a belief in their running system more than a particular back.
Through the years,Denver more than any team befuddles fantasy owners by touting one back and using another,often one unknown.
If Anderson is the main back,he'll produce,but keep in mind who he plays for and try to tab Montee Ball to hedge your bets,if you must take Anderson...

3) Brandon Marshall WR New York Jets

Marshall's run of 1,000 yards seasons ended last season when he missed three games in Chicago before being traded to the Jets.
Marshall's problem is going to be his supporting cast as they are unlikely to take any pressure off him.
Eric Decker doesn't scare anyone on the other side,the running game is pedestrian to be nice and throwing the ball to him is Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith when he returns from injury.
Marshall may have a few standout games,but I'll bet he has more games with average at best numbers...

4) Jeremy Maclin WR Kansas City Chiefs

I had Jeremy Maclin last season and was rewarded with a big year,but going to Andy (Spread it around) Reid in Kansas City won't improve those stats.
Remember yesterday when I wrote about Travis Kelce being the player that benefits from the arm of Alex Smith?
Jeremy Maclin,despite excellent talent,will be the player that is hurt by that same arm.
If you can get him in the middle rounds as a flex player,go for it,but counting on him as one of your two top WR's is a huge gamble....

5) Jordan Cameron TE Miami Dolphins

Jordan Cameron has the type of talent to rank with the best tight ends in the game.
He makes big plays and has excellent hands-when he stays on the field that is.
Cameron never played an entire season with the Browns and he has had multiple concussions,so Cameron is one head shot away from missing the season,so make sure that you have a decent backup in case you take a chance on him...

Bonus Defender

Curtis Lofton LB Oakland Raiders

Remember for those of you new to IDP (Individual Defensive Players) that often times the players with the biggest names are mediocre fantasy defenders.
Linebackers that roll up tackles are the most valuable and Curtis Lofton has been among the best in his career with a career high 100 solo tackles last season with the Saints.
The problem is that you cannot count on that since he is now a Raider.
Many times a player that moves from team to team ,particularly when a veteran,doesn't compile the same stats whether it's a new position,a new defensive formation etc,so veterans with new teams can be risky.
I think Lofton will be productive,but perhaps not at the level that he played at in New Orleans.

Five players I love in Fantasy Football

 Most of you that play fantasy football are preparing to draft your teams.
Our league has already done so,this won't be tipping anyone off to affect my league.
This installment features five players that I love,if a player is a "love" more for a keeper league than a current one,I'll note that.
These also aren't players that are considered stars to the average fan,although they may be soon!
The plan is for a five players I hate as early as tomorrow...

1) Todd Gurley RB St.Louis Rams
I love Todd Gurley and I backed it up as I selected him as my first pick in our draft (We keep four offensive and three defensive players) that I obtained in a trade at the 2014 draft.
On my scouting charts (I know,I need more of a life) I had Todd Gurley as the best RB to leave college since Adrian Peterson and since I've had AP for his entire career,I feel good about Gurley.
A knee injury knocked Gurley down a bit,but he started practicing today and is above his scheduled return time.
It may take time for Gurley to be the regular workhorse and Tre' Mason might be a good idea if you draft Gurley,but tabbing him might win your league...

2) Brandon Cooks WR New Orleans Saints
Cooks was the Saints first rounder in 2014 and was projected to put up big numbers.
Instead,he was just OK and an injury finished his season after ten games.
This year,without Jimmy Graham,the Saints passing game is going to run through Cooks and I wanted him with my second first rounder (8th overall),but he went before that.
Cooks is sitting on a great season...

3) Travis Kelce TE Kansas City Chiefs
I picked Travis Kelce in the second round and I think Kelce,who was huge in the last five games for the Chiefs will be the red zone target for the weak armed Alex Smith,
Kelce caught 80 percent of the passes thrown to him last season (an excellent number) and when people knock him for having Alex Smith as his QB,smile and take Kelce,who will benefit from Smith's average talent..

4) T.J.Yeldon RB Jacksonville Jaguars
Yeldon went elsewhere in my draft and some worry about him being in Jacksonville.
My response is that Yeldon is a 15-20 carry a game back and can catch the ball,so you have a three down back in the making.
Besides,look at the Jaguars passing game and tell me which is more likely-The Jaguars winning games by running or passing?

5) Charles Johnson WR Minnesota Vikings
Johnson,who the Browns had on their practice squad injured for a year before a odd decision to release him,had a strong final month and seems to have a good rapport with Teddy Bridgewater.
Johnson was a pick of mine in my dynasty league and could help you in your regular ones as well....

Bonus Defender
Stephone Anthony LB New Orleans Saints
I know many of you don't play IDP (individual defensive players),but we have from day one (2015 will be our 16th year) and frankly,I'd never play in a league with team defense.
IDP is for the true football fanatic and once the hardcore player tries it,I'd bet they never go back to team defenses.
Anthony was the Saints first rounder out of Clemson and will be installed as the Saints middle linebacker,which means lots of tackles from day one.
I coveted Anthony so much (big numbers,plus I watch lots of Saints games) that when he wasn't picked by me (went just before I was ready to swoop in),I made sure to make a trade to secure his services.
I expect him to be so good that he'll be in the running for keeper consideration for 2016...

Hope you enjoyed this cheat sheet and stay tuned for five players that could break your fantasy team soon....

Monday, August 24, 2015

Safety at the Old Ball Game

Safety in professional baseball has once again become a talking point after another fan injury from a foul ball.

Christina Kahrl writes about the issues and it got me thinking about a possible solution.
Every child that comes to a game wants a autograph or a foul ball and those are the seeds that baseball needs to plant as it attempts to hook young people on the game as other sports and activities continue to eat away at a stronghold that baseball once owned.
As an autographer,you know that access means everything to my hobby,so I do have some concerns about various ideas that have been tossed around.
And at the same time when I go to the Muni for a game,I sit behind the screen in the covered grandstand for three reasons.
The first is the panoramic view of the field (great for the scorebook),the second is the cooler weather (always a summer plus),but the third is this-safety.
It is always so easy,whether you are a huge fan or just a casual fan to get distracted by conversation or other things going on in the stadium.
I sometimes can get distracted just by keeping the book and I'm trying to pay close attention!
Plus friends and occasionally others come up to me and want to talk graphing,baseball and even the blog and podcast,so it can be easy to allow one's attention to wander from the field.
Now consider the attention span of children and adults that are there more to hang out with friends and family more than watching the game itself and imagine the damage a smacked ball straight at you can do.
This is a problem that has always existed and simply will not go away until addressed.

Hockey style boards are a possibility further down the baseline seating,but plexiglas can get scratched so easily and I'm willing to bet that fans are going to be very angry with the diminished views,especially with sun reflection and extra heat from the glass for day games.

Extending the net a little further might not be a bad idea,but some have floated moving the nets down to the foul pole and there is your access drop off to the players and foul balls.
The nets keep getting better and better so concern about a visual problem isn't quite as bad as access to the field.

My solution?
The Sunsetter.
You have to have seen the Sunsetter commercial as a retractable awning to give shade to decks and patios,so you know what I'm talking about.
Imagine a retractable net that could go up before the game or even between innings to improve safety yet keep the access to the game .
Imagine a awning to provide shade,take some of the steam off the batted ball,yet still allow fans to grab a coveted souvenir.
This avenue would improve safety and not take away what so many fans go to the game for.
It would likely take some tinkering around and there would be an occasional hiccup,but they've done reasonably well with the retractable roof,why not this?
Sure,there is an expense and the minors will feel the pain of the cost,but to me-something along this vein is worth pursuing and thinking about.
It just might be the solution that baseball has been looking for.....

Sunday, August 23, 2015

First Round Faceoff

When you watch a lot of minor league games,they can become a bit blurry as they match players that you never heard of and more often than not prove to be less than memorable.

However,every once in a while,you get to the ballpark and get an interesting matchup of pitching prospects to scout and keep a close eye on.
The Lexington Legends are in town for a four games series that saw game one rained out (boy, we could use the rain!) and made up the following day,so on a Saturday bobblehead night,we had a surprisingly sparse crowd for a battle of two 2014 first round selections on the mound for a great chance to scout two highly thought of arms.

Erick Fedde (18th overall Washington) and Foster Griffin (28th overall Kansas City) each pitched well with the Legends and Griffin getting the win,although Fedde got a no-decision in the Hagerstown loss.
Griffin's numbers entering the game looked to represent an unpolished pitcher signed from the high school ranks with an ERA over six in eighteen starts (it would drop under six after the win) and his strikeout tallies were less than one would expect from a reported power arm with 55 in 79 innings before the start.
The 6'5 lefty showed an excellent curveball and threw in the low 90's consistently with what I wager is occasionally touching 95.(I really need a radar gun)..
Griffin struck out seven and walked two in his six innings of work and allowed two runs on just four hits-all of those singles.
I can tell that Griffin is going to need some work with his coaching staff as he might have some issues with repeating his delivery as many tall pitchers do.
Often times with the taller pitchers,mechanics can become an issue as there are so many issues with the trunk and legs that need to be smoothed out,but Griffin certainly has the potential to turn around what has been a disappointing season.

Meanwhile,Erick Fedde continues his return from Tommy John surgery prior to the 2014 draft in his first season of professional baseball.
Fedde's numbers in three Hagerstown (Low A) starts look less than great until you realize the inflated numbers were in one start with the other two being solid.
Fedde allowed two runs in five innings against Lexington giving up five hits,walking two and striking out three.
Returning from Tommy John is a challenge in year one as command often comes back slowly,but Fedde has walked just five batters in 14 innings,so that is a positive.
Fedde throws a bit harder than Griffin at this stage,I think and he has a strong slider in the making.
Fedde is clearly more polished than Griffin,but he should be (22 to 19) as a college standout compared to a high schooler.

It will quite interesting following these two as they progress through their minor league career....

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Indians add Michael Choice-a faded prospect story

The Cleveland Indians quietly took a reclamation project on as the Tribe sent some cash to the Texas Rangers for one-time hot prospect Michael Choice.
The outfielder was assigned to AAA Columbus and will likely be given a chance to enter a possibly crowded outfield picture in Tucson for spring training.
Choice showed top notch power potential in the minors after being picked 10th in the draft by the Oakland Athletics,but was unable to make enough contact in Texas as he hit nine homers in eighty-six games,but did it hitting just .186 in a hitters ballpark in Arlington.

Players like Michael Choice tend to get a extra chance or two on their draft pedigree and every once in a while,a prospect that has seen their star fade at a few stops will put things together somewhere,but more often than not,the flaws of the player generally doom them to be more of a AAA player that becomes a hired gun for that level that will occasionally get called up to provide depth after an injury has occurred.

Being around the game,scouting a lot of players and looking closely at the numbers,I've focused in on a few numbers that at the Low A level tend to tell me whether a prospect could struggle at higher levels whether that is at the big league level or even just AA.

For hitters at low A,there are two numbers that tell a huge tale for me-
Number one,above almost all is this-strikeouts.
If you are striking out at a large rate in low A against the inexperienced and often lacking in command pitching-there is a massive red flag.
Choice started at High A and hit 30 homers,but whiffed 134 times.
That can be lived with when you hit 30 homers,but the progression to AA saw the foreshadowing struggle-88 whiffs in 91 games and the homers fell to just 10.
When you strike out a lot at the A level,you either show that you have adjustments to make or need to develop discipline at the plate.
The stat is not the be all and end all and some hitters have overcome that,but the numbers are against them.

The other number that can tell a contender from a pretender is OPS (on base plus slugging).
However,I weigh OPS a little differently in judging a prospect than I do when evaluating a major leaguer.
I tend to look at OBP as more important in a prospect than slugging (usually) at the lower levels.
Here is why-Most prospects have the ability to drive the ball against the lower quality of pitching,so slugging can be downplayed (just a hair for the purposes of this argument),so I look at these questions-Can this player get on base enough to not be one dimensional?
Will this players be able to continue to hit with extra base power at the higher levels?
Choice's on base percentage was pretty consistent as he moved through the minors (.376 at high A and a high of.390 as he moved up through the minors),but as his homers dropped so did his slugging which moved from a high of .542 at high A and would not go higher than .460 there after.
The drop in Choice's slugging numbers showed just what he was about to become-a player that would occasionally hit for power,but more often than not be a liability at the plate.

Michael Choice could perhaps make the adjustments needed for success,but the odds are against him.
The time for those adjustments were when he was at the lower levels.
Instead,Choice was a one dimensional bomber and now he's on the verge of being considered a bust of a high draft pick.

Hope you enjoyed this,perhaps I'll do a version of looking at the most important evaluating tools for pitchers,if enough are interested....

Friday, August 21, 2015

Cavaliers re-sign J.R.Smith

After one of the poorer decisions in free agency in quite a while,J.R. Smith wound up right where he could have been a few months ago and a million and a half lighter in the bank account to do it,as Smith re-signed a two year contract (2nd year is a player option) with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Smith's contract is worth five million per year,but had Smith picked up his player option for the 2015-16 season,he would have made 6.5 million.
A savings for the Cavaliers,who need to save every penny that they can get at this stage,but a loss for Smith.

On the court,Smith is still a risk despite an excellent Eastern Conference final series vs the Atlanta Hawks.
Smith averaged over 12 points a game with the Cavaliers and shot 39 percent from behind the three point line,so he can still shoot with the best of them when he is hot.
Smith does come with off court baggage and has been known to be a locker room lawyer despite behaving himself in his time in Cleveland last year.
I'm hoping that Smith has learned to be a role player and not the focal point because on this team,he needs to fill a role.
When asked to be the second scoring option against the Golden State Warriors ,Smith came up wanting and at this stage of his career,Smith is so much better suited to be a secondary option.
As a shooter,Smith can be quite valuable when used properly and assuming that the Cavaliers are able to stay,Smith could fill that spot.

The contract isn't oppressive and I am encouraged by Smith's play and behavior last season,but this is no sure thing.
J.R. Smith will always be a dicey proposition due to his poor decision making on and off the floor,Cleveland is gambling with a minimal risk that those days are behind him.

Giants obtain Marlon Byrd

The San Francisco Giants have needed a bat (all season in my opinion) and after another injury to Hunter Pence,they finally succumbed to the need and sent AA Richmond reliever Stephen Johnson to Cincinnati.
The return was veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd,who will be playing for his ninth team in a well traveled career and will hopefully bring a jolt of power to a lineup in need of it.

Byrd has been a bit of a hired gun in the last few years of his career in signing contracts with lower level teams in need of outfielders and then is used as trade bait with contenders that could use a bat.
Byrd has suddenly found some power in the waning days of his career (24 and 25 HR's the last two yrs) and has hit 19 homers for the Reds this season,but his average is down to .237,he traditionally strikes out a ton and I wonder how his power will play at AT&T Park.
Still considering the limitations of having to have players clear waivers in order to be traded,this makes a lot of sense for the Giants.
Byrd has hit well of late after a miserable start in Cincinnati and could be a good stopgap bat while Hunter Pence is out of the lineup.

Stephen Johnson struck out 68 batters in 58 AA innings and opponents were hitting just .214 against him,so there is some intrigue to Johnson,but relievers are not prime prospects and often are the cost of doing business in trades around this time of year.
Johnson was assigned to the Reds AA affiliate in Pensacola and I had him in a pile of cards to get signed for Richmond in my last chance to see them this season in Harrisburg.
However,I did get lucky as Derreck Chupak got him for me when he saw the Squirrels in Altoona.
Once in a while,you get a break!

Let's view the Devils news

This isn't really a cleaning of the inbox,it's more of a catching up on some news that I've missed at recent times...

This is old news,but the New Jersey Devils did buy out the final year of the contract of Dainius Zubrus.
Zubrus was signed to a six year deal in 2007 and then extended after that.
Zubrus was to me a disappointment with the Devils and even before his time in New Jersey,was a player that never seemed to live up to his potential.
Zubrus never scored more than 17 goals in a season with the Devils and last year scored just four in 74 games..
If I had to make a guess,at 37 years old,I'd wager that Zubrus might have played his last game in the NHL and might finish out his hockey years in the Russian KHL....

New Jersey also locked up Adam Larsson for the long term with a contract worth six years and 25 million.
It's a bit of a risk for the 22 year old,but Larsson's play really picked up once he began to play on a consistent basis after the firing of Peter DeBoer (imagine that-a player improving by playing!) and if his development continues,this contract would be a bargain for a top pairing level defenseman.
I see the risk,but I like the deal and think this will prove to be a smart decision,

The Devils also continued to inch away from the Lou Lamoriello era as the team broke policy from those years as far as uniform numbers go.
Mike Cammalleri will return to his number 13 that he wore in his other stops.
Cammalleri wore 23 last season as the Devils policy was never for a player to wear the number despite it not being retired.
In Lou we Trust (look for that name to be changed soon) reports that it was original Devils owner John McMullen's policy to not use it because he felt it to be unlucky and Lamoriello followed that request.
Cammalleri will be the first ever Devil to wear 13 and only the second in franchise history as Robin Burns wore it when the team was the Kansas City Scouts.
Eric Gelinas will wear 44,which was rarely allowed (Stephane Richer wore it last) by Lamoriello.
Lamoriello did not like skaters wearing numbers above 40 unless it was a bone thrown to players with a proven name signed as a free agent (a good example would be Jaromir Jagr).
Gelinas then had his old number grabbed by Jordin Tootoo.
The smallest change just continues to show that there are new sheriffs in town and things are going to continue to move away from tradition.

We'll be continuing to keep an eye on the Devils as training camp looms soon!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Why do I autograph?

I was talking a bit last night during the Suns game vs the Hickory Crawdads and one of my friends offered an interesting question from his wife-Just why do we do this?
"This" basically means the autographing hobby and what we do for along with in this hobby.
In that vein,-this one is for you!

I started doing this because I didn't want a baseball season to end with my son.
I always would occasionally go to a Suns game to get a particular coach from my childhood to sign a card or two through the years,but it never was a passion.

I had coaching to get me through and through 10 years of various building programs,rivalries,friendships-the one thing that was left was the game.
After a great season in baseball,I didn't want it to end,so what Ryan and I did was start going to Suns games for the final two months of the season.
As we did this and began to get attached to the minors,we decided to do a Suns team set and I followed that up with the decision to do the Hickory Crawdads (then Pirates) and Lake County Captains (Indians,then in the league,now in the Midwest League).
It spun off from there.I still remember some of my rookie mistakes likes using silver sharpie way too much or matching sharpies color by the teams color!

I've made great friends in this hobby and I think that's often why I stay in it.
After all,what we do is basically ask young men to write their name on cardboard.
Essentially worthless cardboard,by the way-considering that the certification is only worth as much as the person that makes the claim,what the value is questionable at best and worthless at worst.
I spend more money than I know on cards to get signed and see nothing in return but binders upon binder,but I still love going out and being around the game.

It's the game after all that I love-not the graphing.
They play off each other.I wouldn't graph opera stars or legends of the stage,it's the game.
The young men that play this game at the level that I watch and graph never age.
There is always a new crop of players with the same look of hopefulness in their eyes-I don't think I'd enjoy the big leaguers as much with the business-like manner of the players,larger cities and more and nastier graphers.

Hope that's a brief answer to the question that was asked.
I may be off for a while.
My PC keeps telling me I have a hard disk there is no guarantee that I'll get a re-start.
Keep that in mind,if I am gone for a few days!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meet Posey!

As the final hectic weeks of summer round the turn and head for home,I wanted to find the time to tell you about our new addition to our family.

With the baseball season ending in just a few weeks and work back to wanting me there more for overtime,time is sometime short for this and the podcast.( I have big plans for the podcast,just let me get through these next few weeks!)

Many of you know about Posey (today is her one week anniversary with us),but I haven't had time to introduce her yet.
Posey was named after the San Francisco Giants catcher,but it clicked as the name seemed to fit a petite,female dog
She is a Maltese-Pekingese mix (She looks far more Maltese than Pekingese) that I wouldn't have even connected Pekingese with at all.
I was looking for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels,but Posey just seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.
She weighs roughly five pounds and won't get much bigger.
She was overlooked a few times when we saw her,but she seemed such a good fit for us.
Energetic as puppies are,but not over the top and a really loving dog that "seems" to appreciate her new home.

Posey arrives two years after the loss of our beloved Teddy.
I loved that dog so much and I always thought I'd want a new dog immediately when he went away.
It didn't work that way and it took a long time for the pain to subside.
It never truly goes away,but time does sometimes allow new friends to help deal with the loss.

So with that,please welcome Posey to our family like we have and if you stop by the house,hopefully you'll love her as much as we do!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox-Non-Sports Version

Time to clean out the non-sports inbox as promised and we start with the DNA test that rocked (OK,maybe gently rolled) the political history world as testing proved that Nan Britton's claim from nearly 100 years ago that President Warren Harding had fathered a child with her.
Britton's book "The President's Daughter" printed in 1928 named Harding as the father of her daughter,Elizabeth in 1919 and was mostly rebuked by members of the family and the media.
A grandnephew of Harding contacted the grandson of Britton to run a DNA test and discovered the results with to be that they were second cousins and therefore the connection was legitimate..
I find it interesting for two reasons.
The first is my casual interest in Harding's presidency,but the larger is how history could suddenly be affected by technology.
Imagine some of the things that we think are true and could be proven right or wrong in the future....

Hitchbot was a robot that relied on the kindness of strangers to move "him" across the country and had made it across both Canada and Germany.
Hitchbot barely made it 300 miles in the U.S.before being destroyed by vandals in Philadelphia.
I always wonder why people do stupid things for no particular reason with things that don't affect them in the slightest.

The National Arboretum has a 390 year old bonsai tree from Japan and even more unbelievably,the tree survived the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima!
And combine that with the fact that no one knew this until 2001,even though the tree had been given to the arboretum for the 1976 Bicentennial.
The white pine appears to have been shielded from the fallout by a wall and has "outlived its life expectancy".

Westword writes about one of my favorite bands in the Gin Blossoms and "how they escaped the grunge generation".
I might have been a little late to the Gin Blossoms party (a few years after their hits),but I count myself among the most ardent fans of the band.
I just missed seeing them at Altoona a few years back and I wished that I had been able to go.

We wrap up with Grantland's terrific article on the death of Rowdy Roddy Piper.
It covers Piper's career and is very detailed.
To those of you that asked,I plan on a Piper piece in the future,although it may wait until after the baseball season.
I think that's only fair considering the subject matter..

The inbox is all clear for now!
Hope to be back later with a few words on our new arrival.

PBC-One step forward,Two steps back

The PBC returned this weekend with a Friday card on Spike and a Saturday slate on NBC Sports Net.
Neither card looked inspiring and was so bad that I didn't even bother to add them to the boxing challenge.

The one part that I was interested in was long time WBO (title unrecognized by TRS) Cruiserweight champ Marco Huck defending against undefeated European champion Krzysztof Glowacki.
Huck had defended his title 13 times and was attempting to break the division record for successful defenses in his American and PBC debut.

Huck was signed by PBC to give them a dominant cruiser champ and possibly eventual opposition for their heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder,who has been fighting a pro wrestling like list of squash fights before his 2016 mandatory vs Alexander Povetkin,who went life and death in a close fight with Huck two years ago.
What resulted was the best action fight that the PBC has offered since its inception this year as Huck and Glowacki had the Newark crowd rocking with supporters for both fighters.
It looked to be over in the sixth as Huck slammed a left hook that looked to be a knockout shot that dropped Glowacki to the floor.
A dazed Glowacki barely beat the count,but instead of holding,Glowacki fired punches back in desperation to keep Huck off of him and was effective enough to see the rounds end.
I had Huck ahead entering round eleven 96-93,so Glowacki would have to at least floor Huck to have a chance on my card and Huck had never been dropped to the mat in his career,so that would be a tough chore.
Glowacki did just that as a combination surprisingly dropped Huck and now it was his turn to beat the count,which he barely did.
However,Huck was unable to derail Glowacki,who drove Huck into the ropes with repeated punches and forced the referee to stop the fight.
I wouldn't say this was as good as Matthysse-Provodnikov for fight of the year,but it clearly was PBC's best and a top five bout for sure.
This was the type of fight that PBC needs more of-close,competitive and action filled.

But just as you felt good about PBC,they offered a lead weight to bring you down as aging former cruiserweight champ Steve Cunningham battled even older former light heavyweight boss Antonio Tarver at heavyweight.
This fight goes to show you that just because a fight is close,doesn't mean it was good as both men looked like they were stuck in glue in a fight that I should have gotten paid for watching.
PBC was hoping to find a winner to offer up to Deontay Wilder in December after he beats another walkover opponent in September,but instead found a draw with two judges scoring 115-113 for each man and the other scoring 114-114.
I had it 114-114,but would have no quibble with any card.
Just please don't give me another fight with these two.

PBC's offerings this month look especially dreadful with the exception being ESPN's offering of Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares and even that might be a year too long in being made.
It's stuff like this that has made PBC such a disappointment to me and others.
An inability or unwillingness to make top fights have left PBC wobbling with a less than thrilling lineup.
I want PBC to be successful.
It rises all boats as the old saying goes,but they need better fights and they have the capability to do so with a strong roster in some divisions.
They won't get there by boring people with more Tarver-Cunninghams,they could with more Huck-Glowacki's.....

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cleaning out the inbox-Sports Version

Time to clean out the inbox and we have accumulated so many items that we have to split between sports and non-sports...

Since we are in the middle of the final golf major of 2015 with the PGA Championship returning to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin,Golf Channel writes an oral history of the last visit to the course and the controversial ending of Dustin Johnson's two shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.

Hardball Times writes on how many times when baseball teams trade their problems for yours,it often becomes just changing your problems rather than solving them.
Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby for Frankie Frisch is one trade discussed as is the huge swap of near HOF'ers Dick Allen (and others) for Curt Flood (and others) .
The article is more than just about the trades,it writes a great deal about all four of the mentioned players above...

Most fans of bad teams complain about their teams woes and often (maybe even usually) a talking point is about the lack of a strong farm system or having (seemingly) talented players and not doing a very good job in developing talent along the way.
Grantland writes about the Seattle Mariners and their poor drafting along with a lack of player development in recent years.
Between draft busts and the lack of talent flow,the Mariners have become the team with the largest playoff gap in the AL and this article expresses a major reason why this has occurred.

Sports Illustrated writes about the Raiders hiring the NFL's first woman to do play by play with Beth Mowins doing the Raiders pre-season games.
Every team's pre-season broadcasts are managed by the individual teams,so they can hire whoever they like.
Mowins does college games for ESPN and is not terrible to me (although my friend Ian cannot stand her),so there could have far worse hires-male and female.
Mowins is a million times better than ESPN's past female play by play person,Pam Ward to me.
Now there was someone's work that I really disliked!

Grantland finishes us off with a really interesting article on the Lingerie Football League,which is of course played by women,although might be hilarious to see played by men!
Seriously,the league plays a physical level of football,I've been told and this article was terrific,considering I'm not a fan of the league,
The article talks about the league,its players,what they go through,how tightly the league controls dollars and how little the players really get out of it other than the proverbial love of the game.

That trims the inbox,but hardly finishes the cleanup,so look for a non-sports version soon!!

Rob Kaminsky on the Minors

I originally planned on this post being a cleaning of the inbox and boy,does it need to be cleaned-both sports and non-sports items.

However,I was struck by reading a blog post ( I do read other peoples work too!) by Rob Kaminsky and I wanted to write a few words on Kaminsky's thoughts.
I didn't get to see Kaminsky pitch in Frederick,so I missed seeing the Sandy Koufax fan (always a plus with me) play.
I don't know Kaminsky,although he signed a few cards for me the other night,but I was struck by how business-like he was about accepting his trade from the Cardinals to the Indians.
I told him how much I enjoyed his blog and he responded with thanks along with stating that he plans on doing more with it.

Kaminsky understands that it is a game based business and sometimes we forget that as fans that these are real people.
Sitting behind the keyboard and offering criticism is pretty easy when it doesn't affect you,but imagine the consistent uproar in a life that can spin on a heartbeat via trade,promotion or a demotion.

Players cannot worry about fans or writers think,if they do,then it will rarely be a positive for their career.
I doubt we are nearly as important as we think we are to players and more often than not to many of the men that play this game,we are a necessary evil-without us the dream and dollars are not there,but critic is usually not the one that was in the arena as Theodore Roosevelt once opined.

Moving around affects more than just you as Kaminsky writes,although players in the lower minors usually have concerns more aligned with parents and friends more than wives and children.
Kaminsky writes about the instant changes in team alliances among other things and how players are just cogs in the machine-just like the rest of us.
In many ways baseball is like every other job-a business that uses you to their liking and then tosses you aside when the business is finished with you.
However,there is a difference or two-the clearest being that in the real world,Target doesn't tell you to report to Wal-Mart the next day because they needed a new cart corral.
You can have a new employer and it's out of your control,but there is one advantage to the way of sports-when you are traded,it's always because your new employer wanted you or they wouldn't have shipped an asset out to bring you in.
It's not a perfect system,but in the normal work environment,rarely do you have an excited new employer that is thrilled to have you and to do so immediately.

Rob Kaminsky is a top prospect on the mound,but he looks to be putting together an honest blog on the inside of the minor leagues.
It'll be interesting to see how long he sticks with it as he rises through the minors and attracts more attention.
I hope he does...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Finishing in Frederick

I usually like to save graphing talk for on the signing front,but this was a rare night for the TRS Family as the vacation entered its final night.

Sorry about the glare from the stadium lights from Frederick's Harry Grove Stadium,but this was our first and one never knows maybe only chance to get our two biggest supporters in the same picture as Fred Landucci (with son Michael in tow) and Big Don both were at the game.
Big Don loves pictures as much as I do,but he graciously allowed me to take this one for the blog's posterity.

The Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians) were in town for their last visit of the season and I had plenty of cards.
Between their team set,prospect cards and some recent callups,I had enough cards that I would need two visits during this series (I'll be going there Thursday) and having plenty of collectors there didn't help much.
I'll keep the graphing talk basic,but two pretty cool things happened with players that were neat enough to mention-both after the game.

First,top Cleveland prospect Clint Frazier was signing at the field level and I had 2 cards left for Mike Oravec of his.
I decided to go down and finish them off,because of the long known first rule of graphing-don't wait until next time,if you can do it today,so I walked down to get Frazier.
I was the last person there and handed him the two cards and Clint said "let me ask you something".
I gulped, mainly because my experience in the hobby was telling me that Frazier might be responding with something along the lines of "I got you earlier" or "Don't you guys get tired of this stuff"?
Instead,Frazier asked "how do you move up on these prospect cards"? I wondered and he said "I mean,(Bradley) Zimmer's gone now (AA Akron) and I want to be the best prospect in this league".
I explained to him that the league prospect set is usually decided by the radio announcer or someone in each teams front office to select the player back in April.
Frazier smiled,said thanks and then said "I am going to work double hard to be the best prospect for next season over the winter".
Wow.As an Indians fan to not only see that someone appreciates his fans (Frazier signs a lot),but wants to work hard,improve his craft and pays attention to his surroundings,I'm a Clint Frazier fan whether he makes it or not,but it's great to see someone willing to bust his hump to make it big,rather than relax on his first round laurels.
I don't do many 8 x 10's of athletes,I save those for celebrities because of their lack of cards,but I've become such a fan this year of Clint Frazier and Tyler Beede (Giants),that I hope to get one,if not now,in the future.

The other cool thing was when Levon Washington (Hillcat outfielder) signed a card for me that is headed for Mike Oravec after signing for me earlier.
I told Levon that he signed for me earlier (3 cards) and if he didn't want to sign that would be OK.
Washington and said that it's no problem and then told me how much he liked my sunglasses!
Very cool!

The graphers were out in full force,but having my two most loyal readers in town made up for the graphing aggravation.
It is always a big deal with Big Don hits town for a visit,but the chance for the above picture with Fred was well worth the drive.
I enjoyed the chat and camaraderie with them,Michael and the lovely Cherie,but also enjoyed a respite as our friend Denise invited us to check the view from a Frederick suite box for an inning.
It was the first time I had ever been in one at Harry Grove Stadium and it was fun to see the field from an angle that I had never seen before.

All and all,with plenty of laughs,humor and good cheer even if the graphing had been awful-it was a great way to wrap up vacation with friends.
Thanks to everyone!

I hope to get a podcast done soon and remember I'll be doing many more podcasts once the baseball season ends!!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Finishing the trip off

After a nice breakfast,we decided to take a different route home.
My dad has long ago sworn off the turnpike area unless forced to and takes an alternative path to Ohio,so I wanted to try his way,but with a twist.
Instead of his starting point,Cherie and I decided to go to Columbus for some shopping.

Of course as we were flying down I-81,two quick stops in Ashland were musts-Grandpa's Cheese Barn and a grocery store for Jones Salt and Vinegar chips (Can't miss on a Gibble's Red Hot mix with these) and the underrated Shearer's.
The Cheese Barn was packed tighter than I ever remember it and then Cherie told me "We never are here on a Sunday" and that made all the sense in the world.
A whole bunch of cheese,garlic (dilled!),pickles and more later with a cookie for Cherie later,we were back on the road.

My plan was to drive to Columbus,enjoy the day,then travel home and catch up at some point with Dad's route up the road.
We usually shop in the Polaris area right outside the Ohio capital,with a huge mall,lots of stores outside the mall,but when I got off the exit,there was a huge Cabela's that I hadn't seen before.
As a person of size after being introduced to Bass Pro Shop's by my buddy Corey Cunningham on our long ago trip to Tennessee,I've been a customer of theirs ever since,so Cabela's was an must see.
I had never been to a Cabela's before so I was excited to give it a try.
Cabela's doesn't have the big man sizes that Bass Pro Shops does (I stopped at one near Richmond Va with Mike Oravec),but just walking through the store with the various items for sale,but especially the super fish tank filled with fish native to Ohio.
As someone that kept fish at one time and would love to do so in the future,I really enjoyed this and thin I might even consider a similar "native" tank when I do so.
I did buy myself a badly needed new pair of sandals (reg 90 on sale for 60!),but didn't buy anything else..

We did go into the mall and stores around the area,but to my surprise,didn't spend any money!
Normally,I buy lots of stuff,but why spend when you don't have to,right?
The Polaris mall is huge and double decked with lots of stores to shop and see and within view of Cabela's is in the process of maybe the largest Dick's Sporting Goods that I've ever seen.
They are in conjunction with Field and Stream to make it more like a Cabela's store and perhaps siphon some business away.
That'll be interesting to see in a future visit.
After a late lunch at longtime TRS favorite-Quaker Steak and Lube,we were on the new way home.
Quaker Steak is my personal favorite of all the "Wing" chain joints and I love their Golden Garlic and Arizona Ranch sauce.
Their hotter sauces aren't as good as Buffalo Wild Wings "wild" sauce (My preferred BWW sauce),but the rest are better by a hair,not to denigrate BWW,another TRS favorite.

We saw parts of Ohio that I hadn't seen in years with Zanesville (Zane Grey's home) and Muskingum (birthplace of John Glenn) leading the pack of interest for future stops and through parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia that were new to me.
We passed the ballpark of the Washington Wild Things,who play in the independent Frontier League and near the West Virginia Mountaineers football stadium,but lots of desolation in the two hours between Morgantown WV and Cumberland MD.
As in I counted 1 McDonalds and 1 Subway in that interim as the only fast food place and next to nothing else.
I actually freaked Cherie out as I commented about the literal "stuck in the middle of nowhere" surroundings to the point of making her nervous.
I enjoyed the drive,but after opening my mouth,Cherie might prefer the turnpike.
At least on the turnpike,there are places to stop and plenty of callboxes in case of an issue with a vehicle,so that maybe despite the constant increase in fees,taking this way back might have increased her turnpike appreciation!!!

The vacation stories are pretty much over now.
I go back to work to tomorrow and other than Hagerstown,Frederick and Harrisburg (Stuff that will wait until the future signing fronts) and the annual IFL weekend,the big things are caught up on.
I do have a Devils post planned and then we are up to date.
I planned a podcast yesterday,but road work RIGHT OUTSIDE my house put the kibosh on that,so the hope is for a podcast tomorrow night/Thursday morning from the road office.
Hope you've enjoyed the vacation stories and see you here soon!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Loving Lake Erie!

The next stop on vacation was actually a trip to Frederick for the Keys against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans,but I'll talk about the graphing for that down the road.
Instead we will move onto the following day in which the lovely Cherie and I hit the Lake Erie area for a fun day by the lake and one of its river tributaries....

We decided to drive out via our normal route of the Pennsylvania turnpike because going up to the Lake Erie area is a faster trip taking that into the Ohio turnpike and then try a different route home.
We didn't make a stop (other than quick breaks for drinks etc) until we reached Grand River,which of course runs by the Grand River.
I had never been to the Mentor area,but I was looking for some place to eat that Cherie requested be "by the water".
Normally,I would have considered that to be Lake Erie,but if you've ever been to Cleveland (natives feel free to enlighten me),there is not a ton of places to eat that overlooks the lake from close range.
There are some places in Cleveland by the Cuyahoga River,but I didn't really want to go into Cleveland unless really needed as I wanted a place nearby Eastlake (home of the Captains) so if we were short time-wise,the park wouldn't be far away.

I did some online research on the area and came up with Brennan's Seafood House,right by the water and nearby.
I asked a Twitter follower (I follow her too) from Mentor about Brennan's and she suggested Pickle Bill's Lobster House.
I followed her advice (really,why ask advice on these matters,if you aren't going to follow it) and we were off.
After the drive and arriving in (and by) Grand River,I discovered one little secret that I hadn't known-Pickle Bill's and Brennan's are across a gravel road from each other and there is a bit of a rivalry,as there usually is in these situations at least between fans,if not owners.
Remember our example on Barberton Chicken?

Pickle Bill's has a nautical theme (go figure) and uses lots of bright colors to really stand out amongst the decor.
They fit in very well and would likely be a hit with kids too.

We asked to sit outside so that we can sit by the water,enjoy the beautiful weather and snap some pictures of the boats and ducks.
I usually like sitting outdoors to eat when the weather permits and in these situations,I think it adds to the mood and few things are better than the breeze off a waterfront.
Pickle Bill's offers lots of very nice options,many of them all you can eat.
I considered this,but I've never tried Perch or Walleye (Lake Erie specialties) and I wanted to know which to order.
Pickle Bill's didn't offer a AYCE combo of the two and it would have been eight extra dollars to the higher priced of the two (Walleye),so I ordered a regular sized of one and Cherie ordered a regular of the other,so we could try both.
Both were great and I'd be satisfied with a dinner of both,but I thought the Walleye had a stronger flavor slightly,which made sense because Cherie liked Perch better for the milder flavor.
Our waiter (very good BTW) said he thought perch was stronger flavored,but that goes to show you how tastes are different.
A great walleye and perch dinner later (Pickle Bill's is very vigilant on plate sharing on the AYCE,but they are fine with regular sharing) and some pictures by the water.
Sorry that I missed pictures of the fish.
I usually get those,but this time I was getting the pictures of the surroundings and it just slipped my mind.
The perch came into larger slabs,while the walleye were smaller,crispier pieces,so if that's a factor,keep that in mind...
Make sure you give Pickle Bill's a chance and don't forget about Brennan's either.
I'll try them sometime too!!

After a few pictures by the water,it was off to Eastlake,where we stood in line in the VIP section that I paid extra for.
I broke even as I sold the Jobu Captains bobblehead to Derreck and Brad,which made the game free.
I wouldn't have minded keeping a Jobu,but the chance to make this all paid for was just too much for this casual bobblehead collector.
The Captains kindly opened "the Cargo Hold" their team shop for us and I bought some Captains team sets for me and others,but sadly no Midwest League prospect set as they had sold out.
It helped to pass the time and credit the Captains for being smart to make some money,which is more than many teams do in similar situations....

The wait wasn't overly long (about 45 minutes all told) and Cherie and I easily chatted before going into Classic Stadium.
Cleveland Sports Night featured some former Browns and Cavaliers among a local boxer and MMA fighter that I had never heard of and former Indian Joe Charboneau.
Charboneau no showed due to "illness",but all other advertised guests were there.
We had a 15 minute head start on season ticket holders and a 30 minute lead on the general public,so you needed to move quickly.
I figured the Browns lines would grow the quickest,so the plan was to get there first,but I couldn't resist finishing one of my favorite childhood Cavaliers in Campy Russell quickly.
I talked to Campy briefly as he signed three cards and former Cavalier center Elmore Smith signed three more.
Both very nice fellows as we then tried to find the tables for Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner.
I figured that they would have separate tables,but they sat together.
Between Cherie and I,we got all of my cards for them finished and each signed a Browns helmet for me.
I mentioned to Mack that what I really wanted him to sign had I been able to get one was an L.A.Express helmet from Mack's USFL days,which made Mack's wife laugh out loud.
I had to get a Ravens picture of Byner signed for a friend,which Byner said "boy,you must have some guts bringing this in here!" After some razzing from Byner and fans,we moved into the line for Bernie Kosar,who was late.
After a half hour wait,Kosar walked in feeling little pain and we worked through the line.
Cherie had missed Kosar in Hagerstown,so she was looking forward to meeting him,.
It was a strict one per for Kosar,so I had Cherie get him on an 88 Topps and I put him on the other side of the Mack/Byner helmet to complete the backfield.
Bernie was feeling pretty good and when I told him our drive length,he exclaimed "All Right!" and gave me a fist bump.

We then moved to the field in an attempt to land Great Lakes prospect Grant Holmes on his top 100 card and things for others.
Holmes was important as I never have a chance at Dodger affiliates as Great Lakes is the closest team to us and not exactly next door.
A usher gave us a tip that the best place to graph was at a raised area beyond the right field line.
We went there and a very nice collector was there and helped us a bit.
He said he was going to Hagerstown in a few days (he didn't arrive) and I wish he had.Very nice guy that was helpful and now I have no contact info for him.
The clubhouses for both teams are beyond that point,so you can get them-IF you crouch down and fit items through the barred gate and then down to the waiting player to reach above his head (think of reaching down into the dugout).
Not great access and between local graphers along with kids (fireworks night),it was hard to even get into position to have a chance.
Fortunately,my new friend helped me get into position for Holmes,who signed my top 100,but I couldn't get baseballs to him from Mike and Fred Landucci,so things looked bleak until the lovely Cherie jumped in and grabbed a baseball,which Holmes signed for her.
Not sure which Landucci got to keep the ball,but her quick thinking helped things a lot!
We decided with an hour ride to our hotel to skip the game,which proved to be a good idea as I was exhausted by the time we got there.
A light dinner in the hotel and we were sleeping for the next day.

Back soon with a few tidbits from the final day of the Ohio trip!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Out and About in Altoona

 Day two of the trips part of the vacation featured the lovely Cherie and I going to the Altoona Curve for Tony Dorsett night.
We didn't get to actually meet Dorsett,although he did walk by us once as he exclaimed how much he wanted a beer,but the night was still fun.
It must have been especially fun for the kid in the picture behind us,who seems to be enjoying his evening in a "special" way that brought to mind a long ago daytrip with family in Gettysburg after I got home and saw the background of this photo.
I rarely use photos of myself,but I couldn't tell the story without the reader being able to see the person in question!

Altoona features the best place on the "local" circuit to watch a game in Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Simply put,it's tremendous.
With the roller coaster from Lakemont Park looming over the right field wall,PNG Field has something that no other park has and adding in great sightlines from two levels,watching the game at Altoona is always a treat.
The food isn't bad either and reasonably priced too!
I usually get a nice sized steak sub (also available in chicken) for six bucks and it's pretty tasty,which isn't always the case in ballpark food.
Add in the always catchy jingle of "Everybody loves Curve Baseball" with each Curve run,you have a pretty nice atmosphere during the game

However,Altoona isn't a perfect trip.
The autographing is the toughest on the circuit as you have zero postgame opportunities as the bus is loaded inside the facility and the pre-game chances range from hard (doing the visitors) or almost non-existent (for the Curve),but that isn't the worst part.
The ushers that work for the Curve are easily the nastiest on the circuit and considering I attend a home ballpark that employs a knockoff version of Mean Girls 2 for employees-that says a lot!
Most of these people look and act like the cranky old guys sitting in the overhanging balcony on the Muppet Show and seem like their joy in life is to make sure that you AREN'T having a good time.
Simply horrible and if I could change one thing about Altoona,that would be it-friendlier ushers would go so far in fan relations that I think the Curve and its fans would be very surprised in the results...

The front office kinda pulled a fast one too.
Tony Dorsett was advertised all winter for this event and the team even sold VIP packages and promoted the event as a chance to get Dorsett to sign things before the general public,
Those sold quickly and since the Curve never got back to me after repeated calls,I missed out.
Well,that turned into dollars saved when the Curve put out a press release roughly a week before the game that "due to a sports memorabilia contract,Mr.Dorsett cannot sign anything without the Curve logo".
That cost me 25 bucks (anyone that needs a Broncos throwback helmet let me know),but I can get that signed by someone else,but others like spent lots of money that they cannot get back.
The team sold those packages with Dorsett's company being involved from the day they agreed to get him (the team either knew or stupidly missed that clause,bringing back the old phrase-Are you ignorant or corrupt?) and never told anyone until after they were all sold.
I would have been very upset with this-I promise you,so it was better that they didn't get back to me.
So basically,you could get a program (whoopee) or these cheap plastic footballs signed (think the small mini hard plastic ones thrown into the stands at high school football games) or anything else from the team shop that essentially didn't do much to bring to mind Tony Dorsett.
Instead of waiting in line for Dorsett,I graphed the visiting Akron Rubber Ducks and did Ok with their team set and surprisingly got top prospect Bradley Zimmer to sign two cards,as he usually is a one per.

I still enjoyed our evening with Cherie.
We had a great time together and spending time together is a plus plus.
Traveling with her is always so much fun,I wish I had more money and time to do more of it!
Thanks to my Altoona buddy,Brett Shaw for helping to set us up as well!

Not sure when I'll be back,but look for a post soon on our trip to the Lake County Captains for Cleveland Sports Night...

Friday, August 7, 2015

Indians and Braves make a tomahawk swap.

I originally planned to make this post about my Altoona stop,but the baseball world saw a swap between the Indians and Braves,so we move onto that as two teams traded underperforming players with bad contracts that had cleared through waivers.

Cleveland traded Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn (the Indians high priced free agent signings of the 2013 off season) to Atlanta for third baseman Chris Johnson.
Cleveland also added some extra cash to a trade that was more about salary relief for the 2016 off-season than about actual baseball improvement.

Swisher has suffered through injury issues over the last two seasons after having a pretty good first season of an expensive contract while Bourn has seen his batting average and stolen bases tumble in each of his Cleveland years and appears to be a player reliant on his legs while age slows his game down.
Both players had one year left on their contracts,but at sizable amounts (29 million for the two),but Chris Johnson has two years remaining on his deal at 7.5 and 9 million,so this saves the Tribe a little bit of dough.
The thirty year old Johnson was a .321 hitter just two years ago,so he could be a reclamation project or at least a fill-in at first and third,but could also be shipped elsewhere again in an attempt to trim the payroll a bit.

In the end,it shows the problems for small market teams signing big contracts for free agents-You just cannot miss on these signings.
A bigger market can make impact with signings and be able to eat the losses on players that do not work out.
Cleveland cannot.
Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were brought in to Cleveland to help put a borderline team over the top into the playoffs and they helped.
For one season and one playoff game,ever since their contracts and statistics have been a drag on the franchise and just moving them on is a good thing-no matter the return...

Big weekend for me,so don't be surprised if I am not around for a few days.
If I am,it will most likely be about Altoona...

Bouncing around in Binghamton

Look for more soon and actually I wanted to do more today,but it was time for the long awaited Windows 10 update and that took a few hours.
I still have plenty to catch up on up,but I figured that I would start with the first fun part of my vacation as Mike Oravec and I traveled up I-81 to see my friend Jason Christensen and a initial visit to the Binghamton Mets stadium.

It's a easy drive from the Hub City,straight up I-81,one turn off an exit and you arrive at the stadium,so it is incredibly easy to find.
Mike and I cruised up and ate at an interesting place called the Spot Diner,not too far from the stadium.
The Spot is a very roomy restaurant that specializes in desserts-as in many of them!
Mike had a dessert that I am having trouble remembering the name of,while I deferred.
Believe it or not,I'm not a massive dessert person,but I did (almost!) order one for a change.
My order was a Reuben on wheat with a side of fries and it was quite good.
I am trying (small steps) to eat better with small adjustments and one is trying to eat whole wheat bread.
I've cut as much white bread out as I can,despite having to develop a taste for wheat,but there is no way that I can enjoy a sandwich on rye,which is the traditional manner in which a Reuben is served.
I give the Spot a high grade and a trip to Binghamton (which is in future doubt) wouldn't be the same without it....

When we arrived at the stadium,the lot was a decent sized walk to the left field gate.
Jason was sitting outside and greeted us with a hello and a swapping of various items for the rest of the season.
Rumors have been floating around Binghamton much like Hagerstown over the last few years that their team is soon to be gone from their area.
The difference is that there is a committed buyer (and more) involved that would result in a tumbling domino affect that would see the AA B-Mets in Wilmington Delaware,the current High A Blue Rocks sold to the Texas Rangers and moved from Wilmington to Kinston N.C. and leaving Binghamton with the hopes of maybe bringing a New York/Penn league team to town (most likely Batavia,but possibly Auburn or Vermont).
Binghamton allows an entry to the left field gate,but that entry does not allow one to return,so you might want to have your ducks in a row before entering the ballpark.

Binghamton's NYSEG stadium reminded me of an amalgam of two different parks that I have visited to-Potomac and Reading.
The elevation of the stadium's seats brought to mind Potomac,but the covered concession areas and the actual seating itself made me think of Reading.
Jason told him where to stand as I had more cards for the B-Mets than for the visiting squad from New Britain,
I really wanted to add the rehabbing Travis D'Arnaud on his two Top 100's and Jason said he had been signing,but Binghamton had a curve to throw.
The team corded off an area on the field for players to sign-if you were under 14.
D'Arnaud signed for them and passed on the rest of us.
Bad luck,but rehabbing players are usually far from a sure bet.
I did get pitcher Akeel Morris on his Bowman chrome,but this night wasn't about graphing as much as the other things.
I didn't eat at Binghamton because I was still full from the Spot,but Jason did buy me a lemon italian ice,which was quite good and at three dollars,a pretty reasonable price.

As I most often do,I climbed the concrete steps to sit high above the field.
I usually find the true fans of the game that you know-come for the game,there.
Not the wine and cheese crowd with beer in hand in the lower levels or the screaming for t-shirt bunch,the people that come for and love the game .
My pictures are a little crooked,but the Kindle fire is a touchy camera that that I still haven't quite mastered.
It's made for the notorious "Selfie" and lacks a rear viewing camera,so it's a balancing act for me.
Binghamton's team shop was pretty ordinary.
Actually what it reminded me most of was the old Hagerstown team shop before someone thought that it was a better idea to fill it with 20 year old games.
It was smallish,not well lit,but was functional enough.
I loaded up with B-Met teams sets for others and Mike was gracious enough to use a discount to snag me what he said was the last 2015 St.Lucie set in the place.
I've always wondered why teams didn't stock team sets of the feeder teams and Binghamton was smart enough to take advantage of the idea.
For example,if I ran Hagerstown,I'd order 25 sets of their feeder in Auburn and have their sets available.
I left the St.Lucie player cards that were now with Binghamton with Jason,so they could get signed,but the majority were placed in the pack for next season when they will be promoted to AA.

Binghamton's offense exploded and Jason said that we could come back anytime because "it's the best that they have hit all season!"
That led to the best part of the night.
I always have had a soft spot for the WHA hockey teams and especially the Hartford Whalers before their move to Carolina.
Brock Peterson hit one of his two homers on the night and the PA system blared "Brass Bonanza",which was the Whalers fight song after they scored a goal.
As I clapped,cheered and wondered why in the hell Brass Bonanza was being played at a Binghamton baseball game,Jason cleared it up with an explanation of Binghamton's AHL team formerly being a Whalers affiliate and corresponding name and the B-Mets kept it.
Note to the Hartford team entering the Eastern League next year-If you don't find a way to use Brass Bonanza,you are dropping the ball!

Considering that home was four hours away and the score was a lopsided 11-2,we decided to motor down the road and not get home too late-even still I got there around 1 AM.
I really enjoyed catching up with Jason and meeting his various friends from the graphing circuit.
It was fun connecting faces with the names and I'd certainly go back with the ease of the trip,especially if the right player/teams was there to graph.

I liked Binghamton.
It wasn't the greatest stadium as it isn't modern or even old enough to be considered a throwback classic,but I had a good time.
Isn't that what baseball is all about???

Next post will deal with the lovely Cherie and I's trip to Altoona!